Preparing Mentors

Mentoring-intern-sandra

Mentors are the heart of an REU!

 They:

  • Guide students in their work & career
  • Build student confidence and comfort
  • Introduce students to colleagues
  • Model ethical and professional behavior 
  • Demonstrate collaboration
  • Provide insight into life as a scientist
  • Give supportive career guidance
  • Increase student sense of belonging

Preparing Mentors for Your REU Program

One of the key factors that REU students cite as impacting the success of their summer is their relationship with their science mentor. Setting your mentors up to succeed will help both parties. Here are some suggestions (click to jump to topic):

1. Hold a meeting for mentors - Prepare your mentors  

2. Share the benefits for students and faculty - Give evidence from the research

3. Provide mentors with basic information on your REU program - Overall goal, end deliverables, deadlines, expectations of both mentors and students

4. Tips on mentoring for a productive summer - Advice for success & problem solving, slides for preparing mentors 

5. Plan to engage and support mentors - Emails, meeting with student & mentors, brown-bags for mentors 

6. Share resources with your mentors - Links to mentoring manuals, tips, video, articles 

7. Supporting transgender students Tips on supporting and insight into campus life for a transgender student

8. Materials for the REU site manager - Articles, mentoring agreement, and more

 

1. Hold a meeting for mentors

  • Most REUs hold a meeting for their mentors before the program starts - with good reason, it helps the summer go more smoothly.  
  • The terminology used to describe the meeting is key to engaging mentors. A meeting on "Mentoring Students in Science" is more appealing to scientists than a "Mentor Training." 
  • Share this handout on "Tips for Science Mentors"

2. Benefits for students and faculty of mentoring

2.1 Students who have mentoring relationships are found to be:

  • More productive in research activity & publishing
  • More efficient getting through graduate school
  • Develop bigger networks
  • Happier in their field
  • More successful in finding career placements
 

2.2 Faculty members or scientists who are members:

  • Get help for little or no financial cost 
  • Can have research stimulated by having student focus attention on a project & ask insightful questions
  • Can try out dusty or risky project ideas
  • Have new energy added to a research group 
  • Can have grad students and postdocs learn how to mentor a student supportively
  • May identify potential graduate students
  • Satisfy the broader impact criteria of grants or institution
  • Help students prepare for the workforce or grad school (see "What do employers seek in graduates? Internships" graph)

3. Provide mentors with basic information on your REU program

3.1 List of the student's deliverables

  • The mentors need to know what the student is expected to produce and when it is due, such as:
    • a scientific report on their research or blog
    • an oral presentation with slides
    • individual or group presentation
 

3.2 Calendar

  • Guide the mentor on what to expect during the REU program. List dates that might impact the mentor, such as:
    • Student arrival and departure dates
    • Orientation and cohort-building activities, such as a welcome meal or planned field trips
    • Workshops or seminars (e.g. on résumé-writing or graduate school)
    • Due dates for assignments, including practice talks or poster sessions
    • Presentations such as a final poster session or colloquium
    • Mid-program meeting with mentor, student, and REU lead (date could be TBD)
    • See this sample calendar for mentors (DOC)
  • Tip for the REU site manager: It is recommended that you create a weekly schedule for your students. For example, you could have a regular biweekly Friday workshop on elevator speeches, posters, writing abstracts, creating a scientific talk, ethics, practice talks, and more. This can really help to create a sense of cohort, and helps you to stay connected to what is going on with the students.
 

3.3. Logistics and Expectations

  • Mentor's duties at functions such as attending a poster session and dates
  • The student's first day at work
  • What to provide students within their workspace, such as a desk, computer, and telephone
  • What is expected of the student in terms of work hours (e.g. 40 hour per week, and what kind of flexibility is the mentor okay with on timing, location)
  • Pay set-up for students
  • Expectations of students' professional behavior related to communication, dress code, workplace conduct, & drug-free work place
  • Provide students and mentors with a rubric or goals to discuss at the outset (goals, objectives) and mid-program (progress) 
 

4. Tips on mentoring for a productive summer  

4.1 How do I start? 

  • Get to know your mentee
  • Find out what is important to them and interesting to them
  • Really listen to them
  • Discuss projects and see what clicks
  • Share about your career joys, challenges, and pathway
  • Build trust by listening, being respectful, using humor, and leading by example
 

4.2 Set expectations

  • What expectations does the mentor have for the student? What type of assistance does the mentee want from the mentor?
  • Talk about communication:
    • plan regular weekly meetings (discuss how often, when, where, and how long will you meet? who will create meeting agendas and topics?)
    • discuss work hours (what is expected?)
    • is it okay to work at home vs the office or lab?
  • Discuss expectations of professional behavior and lead by example 
  • Making expectations clear reduces misunderstandings and when problems arise, refer back to these conversations
 

4.3 Project design and milestones

  • Scope the project scale accordingly (it's a summer project, not a thesis or a dissertation) 
  • Have the student make a work plan and discuss it with their mentor (work plan template)
  • A two-minute elevator speech describing their project (after e.g. 1-2 weeks - yes, that early)
  • A five-minute white-board talk on their project with no slides (after e.g. 3 weeks)
  • A practice talk with slides (after e.g. 4-6 weeks) with you
  • A practice talk with their mentor before their final presentation
  • A rough template of their scientific poster with placeholders for images and drafted captions and text sections (after e.g. 4 weeks)
 

4.4 Communicate regularly with your student

 

4.5 Be a rounded mentor

  • Talk about your own career path and decisions that you made along the way
  • What is most exciting about science to you?
  • Share your joys and challenges of working in this career
  • Discuss how to keep a work-life balance: how does being productive during work hours allow for real time off?
  • Talk about career opportunities outside of academia, as most students need to know what is out there and that there are options
  • Consider hosting a non-academic career panel to introduce your students to the private sector, government, and education
  • Introduce your mentee to your colleagues and conferences in your field
  • Conversations with your mentee on career choices or the student's challenges should be private
  • Again, lead by example 
 

5. Plan to engage with and support your REU mentors

  • Send a weekly/biweekly email to mentors updating them on programmatic events and INCLUDE a few photos
  • Meet with the student and mentor(s) 3-4 weeks into the program and ask the student to present an update at a white board. This can be very helpful for seeing if things are on track
  • Organize a brown-bag lunch for mentors where they can share challenges and get support, around mid-program 
  • Check in with each mentor individually a few times during the REU program
 

6. Share resources with your mentors  

 

7. Supporting transgender students  

  • Tips for supporting transgender students: this web page has several pointers with explanations of what to say or not to say in being an ally to transgender people. When you become an ally of transgender people, your actions will help change the culture, making society a better, safer place for transgender people - and for all people (trans or not) who do not conform to gender expectations.
  • Article on transgender issues on college campusesthis article covers different aspects of supporting transgender students into your program, and addresses some of the logistical pieces such as housing, bathrooms, name on transcripts, and helping students feel included.
 

8. Materials for the REU site manager  

     

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